> Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes
learn only 3 things about them ...
The males look after the eggs!
They are globally endangered due to overharvesting for
the traditional medicine trade.
are hard to spot and can't move fast. Watch your step
or you might step on one!
seen? Pipefishes and seahorses are more common than we
might imagine. They are well camouflaged and thus usually overlooked.
But the patient and keen-eyed observer is often rewarded with a sighting
of these amazing fishes on many of our shores especially in seagrass
What are pipefishes and seahorses?
They belong to Family Syngnathidae. According to FishBase:
the family has 52 genera and 215 species. They are found in shallow
tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific
Features: These are true fish,
although they don't appear very fish-like! Members of this family
are enclosed in an armour of bony rings just under the skin. They
also have an internal skeleton just like other fish. While most retain
a dorsal fin, in some pipefish species, the other fins are small or
absent. The seahorse doesn't have a tail fin, but some pipefishes
have a tiny fan-like tail fin. These fishes are adapted for sheltered
waters well vegetated with seagrass or seaweed. With reduced fins
and rather inflexible bodies, they cannot swim quickly. Instead, they
rely on camouflage to blend in with the vegetation. The seahorse has
a prehensile tail (can be curled around a firm object) as do some
What do they eat? Seahorses and
pipefishes feed on tiny creatures. These are sucked up with their
tube-like, toothless snouts. 'Syngnathus' means 'fused jaws' in Greek.
Pregnant fathers: In many members
of this family, the male carries the eggs. In some species, the male
has a pouch. For those without a pouch, such as pipefishes, the eggs
may be glued to the underside of the male's tail or abdomen. Often
the eggs are embedded in a spongy tissue. Some have a pair of flaps
that fold over the eggs. Females have an ovipositor to lay eggs on
the male's body, where the eggs are then fertilised. In some species,
'pregnant' males may hang out together in small groups. The eggs develop
safely on dad's body. The father 'gives birth' to live young, which
emerge as miniatures of the adults.
Human uses: Pipefishes and seahorses
are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Some species are also caught
for the live aquarium trade.
Status and threats: These fishes
are threatened by habitat disturbance and destruction from reclamation,
pollution and activities that increase sedimentation. They are also
threatened with over-collection for the traditional Chinese medicine
and live aquarium trade. They are naturally uncommon because they
reproduce slowly and usually seldom travel far from one spot. Usually,
in the wild only a handful of babies survive from each batch of eggs.
Being slow swimmers without a free-swimming larval stage, they don't
spread quickly to new places. Being slow-moving and defenceless, they
are easily collected.
Like other fish and creatures harvested for the live aquarium trade,
most die before they can reach the retailers. Without professional
care, most die soon after they are sold. Those that do survive are
unlikely to breed successfully. Llike
other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human
activities such as reclamation and pollution. Poaching by hobbyists
can also have an impact on local populations.
Syngnathidae recorded for Singapore
with list of species recorded for Singapore
Seahorses with list of
species recorded for Singapore
(Family Syngnathidae), Seahorse
(Hippocampus sp.) Tan, Leo W. H. & Ng, Peter K. L.,
1988, A Guide
to Seashore Life. The Singapore Science Centre, Singapore.
Pipefish (Hippichthys cyanospilus), Spotted
Seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Jeffrey
K. Y. Low, 1998. A
Guide to the Common Marine Fishes of Singapore. Singapore
Science Centre. 163 pp.
Seahorse: THE website for everything about seahorses, it also
has lots of info about pipefish.
our Seahorses focusing on seahorses and their habitats in
- Wee Y.C.
and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore
Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore.
Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
- Allen, Gerry,
Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers.
Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
- Kuiter, Rudie
H. 2002. Guide
to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers
New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral
Reef Fishes of the World
Periplus Editions. 400pp.